Press Office

Birdoswald final excavations

Final year of excavations commence at Birdoswald Roman fort

Published on: 13 June 2024

Work has begun on the final season of a long-term programme at the Roman fort of Birdoswald, on the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.

Life and death on the Roman frontier

Excavations will continue in areas west and east of the fort, as well as to the north, beyond the line of Hadrian's Wall, to give glimpses of different types of life and death on the Roman frontier.

The programme’s previous work at Birdoswald has demonstrated that the settlement beyond the fort walls was carefully planned, and that that there were big differences in the types of buildings and activities across the site. A new big picture is emerging of the settlement outside the fort as military towns, and the frontier as a zone, rather than a distinct line or boundary.

The team of archaeologists is investigating the remains of houses, communal spaces, workplaces, a bath complex and what may be an extension of the cemetery area.

Archaeologists at work at Birdoswald

A new story of Birdoswald

The greatest concentration of finds, ranging from household items to sling shot bullets, was unearthed to the north of the wall last year, suggesting a deliberately planned community which was thriving and trading, challenging assumptions that civilians were sheltering to the south of the fortifications.

This year’s work will add the latest pieces to a new story which has emerged of the whole Birdoswald settlement, addressing enduring questions regarding the location of the towns of the Roman military in the north, and the pattern of community life outside the walls of the fort. 

The Roman bathhouse to the east, unearthed during the first year of the project in 2021, includes evidence of a heating system in a state of preservation that is unrivalled across the former Roman Empire, outside Pompeii.

Training for the future

Over the course of the five-year project, which began in 2021, Newcastle University archaeology students have also joined the project, ensuring they get hands-on training in the latest high-tech archaeological methods.  Archaeology degrees at Newcastle University are officially accredited by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, and this excavation helps ensure that students graduate with the practical skills sought by employers.

Ian Haynes, Newcastle University Professor of Archaeology and project co-director, said:

“This will be the last time for the foreseeable future that people will have a chance to see major excavations at Birdoswald, so I hope many will take advantage of our tours and visit.  It has been a privilege to co-direct the site with my friend and colleague Tony Wilmott, one of Britain’s leading field archaeologists, who is retiring this year from an action-packed, life-long career in public service archaeology.”

Visitors to Birdoswald are able to view ongoing excavation from 11th June until 4th July (excluding the 24th June), Monday to Friday at 11.00am and 2.00pm, by booking free guided tours here


Latest News